International Women’s Day 2022 – Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow #BreakTheBias

Two human hands holding big city and heart shape of tree over blurred nature background

There’s been significant focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives in recent years and that is undoubtedly a good thing. However, the fact that, as a society, there is a continuing need to focus on different groups of individuals and to support them to reach their aims of achieving equality shows that that journey is far from complete.

Women employees continue to face greater challenges as they pursue their career objectives than men who are in similar positions. Much of that is as a result of broader societal expectations and is not linked to employers – things change slowly and women are far more likely to be responsible for childcare or, increasingly, looking after elderly relatives.

While employers may not be able to wave a magic wand and address issues beyond their control, there is still plenty that can and should be done internally.

Women’s career opportunities

Progressive employers are taking clear actions to ensure that women feel fairly and equally treated and are given unfettered access to comprehensive career opportunities. Ensuring that all individuals can secure both internal and external career support and can fully engage with it is key to this. Equally, as is the case more broadly, is the need for line managers to be sufficiently well developed to demonstrate a genuine willingness to engage and understand the factors that may inhibit career progression amongst some in their workforce, often but not always, women.

Growing talented female leaders has been proven beyond doubt to enhance the efficiencies and overall performance of organisations; creating targeted training and development opportunities, ensuring that trained mentors and experienced coaches are within reach allows this group to flourish.

However, the focus should not, as it can sometimes appear, simply be on ‘the top talent’; all women, regardless of their level or employed status should feel that their employer puts in place appropriate measures to support their careers and ensures that gender bias is given no place in the modern workplace.

Top 5 tips for improving career prospects for female employees

Ensure managers are trained to have effective career conversation

Through coaching, managers can have improved and more frequent career conversations with all employees by equipping them with the tools and developing their capabilities to improve their competence and confidence. This will help managers better understand career objectives and any barriers preventing employees from achieving them.

Provide coaching support

Leadership programmes focused on supporting female talent help companies of all sizes and sectors to proactively gain the guidance and support needed to create workplaces which encourage women’s careers, while achieving high performing teams because they attract, retain and develop the best talent at all levels.

Invest in unconscious bias training

This will help your managers recognise bias, avoid discrimination and support a culture of diversity in the workplace. Unconscious bias training is essential for any organisation looking to create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive organisation where all staff feel they can bring their whole self to work and feel valued by helping others recognise and address any unconscious biases they may have.

Female mentoring programmes

Asking female senior staff to mentor younger employees in your organisation can create huge benefits. Not only does it unlock talent among junior teams, it can also boost their confidence if they are intimidated by the journey to the top. Advice and a sympathetic ear, matched with a professional attitude, can be a powerful force in creating future business leaders.

Focus groups to understand the particular challenges females face with regards to their careers in your business

Conducting focus groups with your female employees can help you explore their awareness, attitudes, opinions and behaviours in relation to the challenges they face in the workplace. They can reveal differences between what your organisation thinks it is doing and the employees’ actual experiences. The group setting can support employees to express their views and develop solutions.

Supporting your employees

At a time when all organisations are suffering from a lack of skilled workers, as well as being the ‘right thing to do’ it is also in the interest of employers to fully embrace the options available and ensure that all employees can grow and develop their careers as they may wish.

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